When it comes to summer learning, reading together is a wonderful way to help your child grow. But there’s much more you can do to help a child develop literacy skills – all while sharing in summertime fun!
The Natural World
At the beach
Have children write their names in wet sand with a stick or toy shovel or challenge them to a game of beach tic-tac-toe. Kids develop fine motor skills when physically using a writing utensil like a pencil or pen, rather than just hunting and pecking on a computer keyboard. Collect colorful beach glass in a pail and let kids sort them by color: clear, brown, green, blue, etc. Display in a glass jar at home. This helps little ones learn colors and develop an appreciation of the natural world.
Take a walk
Go for a walk on the trails at any of the local Cleveland MetroParks. The conversations you have along the way build vocabulary, which helps kids who are learning to read. Help kids identify plants and wildlife. Take binoculars to identify different bird species. Or try a magnifying glass (some mobile phones have this feature) to identify insects like caterpillars, salamanders and butterflies. Or bring a small basket and have kids collect leaves, acorns or buckeye seeds. Even a small toy net is fun to catch fireflies with at dusk. Help kids collect them in a mason jar. Poke holes in the lid, ask imaginative questions, count them together and watch the magical glow. Just make sure to release it when the kids head to bed.
In the backyard
Buy a set of colorful chalk at the dollar store, and let the kids use their creativity in a safe driveway or front sidewalk. Hop-scotch is a timeless favorite. Kids can write the numbers in the boxes and jump the squares while saying the numbers aloud. And they’re engaging in physical activity at the same time!
Check Out Local Sites
Visit the grocery store or farmer’s market
Can your child pick out a mango, clementine, Brussels sprouts, okra, avocado, rhubarb, and kale? Challenge your youngster to find these produce items in a grocery store. Have them pick out their favorite or try a new fruit or veggie to sample. This helps kids build healthy eating habits while contributing to a lifetime of health literacy.
Visit your neighborhood library
Walk or bike to your neighborhood library; bring a reusable bag. Help the kids sign up to get a library card, then let them choose books, graphic novels, children’s music CD’s and DVD’s to peruse at home. Some libraries even have toy lending libraries. Take advantage of the board games and educational toys that are available, usually at no cost to the borrower with a valid library card.
Visit a zoo
Zoos are a terrific way for kids to learn about different animal species, as well as habitats, geography, climate, and environmental responsibility. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is free to all Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township residents on Mondays, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. RainForest admission is discounted to $5.50 on Mondays too.
We all have them lying around. Whether it’s under the couch cushions, in a car’s footwell, or an old jar of coins at home. Dump them out on the floor and help kids count the coins and wrap them in the paper coin rolls, available in penny, nickel, dime, and quarter denominations at local bank branches. Then bring the kids to the bank to deposit the rolls or exchange for dollar bills. Many banks allow parents to open a student bank account with no minimums or fees. This helps kids build financial literacy.
Host a lemonade stand
Read instructions with the kids on lemonade mix, ask them to measure the mix and water with a measuring cup. Squeeze some fresh lemon! Have them create a sign using markers, writing out the words and sale amount per cup.
Keep a cash box with slots for pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and currency in ones, fives, tens and twenty dollar bills. Start out the box with some initial change and count it with them. When the lemonade runs out and the sale ends, count out the difference to determine what the profit is. Let kids save the money or donate it to a charity. This helps develop young entrepreneurial skills, builds confidence, healthy socialization with neighbors, and early philanthropy!
Pull out a pack of playing cards. Teach kids a basic card game like Solitaire, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s, etc. Playing cards develops math, reading and critical thinking skills. And it’s a great thing to do on a rainy day or camping with family members.
Sort and count
Have any spare buttons or jewelry beads lying around? Have kids sort them by color, shape or size. String dry pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni, elbow macaroni or wagon wheels) to make jewelry designs. Have kids count each piece and make individual patterns. Try 3 ziti, 1 wagon wheel, 2 rigatoni, then repeat the pattern. It makes for a fun activity. Maybe cook the pasta together afterward to make homemade macaroni and cheese!
Whatever activity you choose, let kids take the lead and have fun! Parents and grandparents are a child’s first teacher, so encourage their curiosity and be willing to try new things! Summer is all about memorable new adventures. Start yours today!